Bògòlanfini (Mud Cloth):

Understanding Traditional Symbols & Creating New Ones

DATE: Thursday, May 7 and Tuesday, May 19

TIME: 4 – 5:30 pm

PLACE: African American Heritage Center

Macon Library

361 Lewis Avenue (at Macon Street)

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

SUBWAYS: A, C to Utica Avenue

INFO:, 212.989.3006

PRE-REGISTRATION RECOMMENDED: Macon Library, 718.573.5606

COST: Free!

Artmakers Inc. leads two art workshops for teens — May 7 and May 19 — where participants, inspired by symbols found in African fabrics and painting, create an original work of art based on traditional symbols found in bògòlanfini or mud cloth, developed by the Bamana people of Mali.

The workshop begins with a look at the Center’s current exhibition — Images of the African Diaspora in New York City Community Murals, curated by Jane Weissman, co-author with Janet Braun-Reinitz of the recently published On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City (University Press of Mississippi, 2/2009). Scroll down for exhibition press release.

Providing cultural context for the art making portion of the workshop, Janet Braun-Reinitz’s Signs and Symbols: From Mali, West Africa to Brooklyn, NY shows an East New York (Brooklyn) park house covered with both traditional bògòlanfini symbols and contemporary images representing urban New York City life.

Janet Braun-Reinitz, Signs and Symbols: From Mali, West Africa to Brooklyn, NY

1996, East New York, Brooklyn, acrylic on brick, 10’ x 55’

© United Community Centers and Artmakers Inc., photo © Janet Braun-Reinitz

Each piece of mud cloth tells a story. No two pieces are alike and each pattern and color combination has meaning. Mud cloth is also used to define a person’s social status, character or occupation.

Participants will be shown examples of traditional mud cloth as well as contemporary symbols other teens created in the making of Signs and Symbols — city, food, friendship, love, stop violence, celebration, music, sports, nature, rivers and, from images that already exist, recycling and the AIDS ribbon.

After the teens develop their own symbols — working with white chalk on black construction paper — they will collaborate with Artmakers muralists to create their own piece of mud cloth. The result will be put on display.

Note: For traditional bòfòlanfini, cotton cloth is woven, shrunk, and then soaked in a preparation of leaves from certain plants. Men usually perform the weaving, and the women the dyeing, first outlining the intricate designs with fermented mud. The mud is treated with caustic soda, bleaching the designs to create white figures on a dark ground.

Funding for Images of the African Diaspora in New York City Community Murals and related programming has been generously provided by New York Council for the Humanities and Independence Community Foundation.


Community Muralists